Here I will share a foolproof method of weaning your baby off a bottle. Everyone understands that a formula-fed baby drinks from a bottle, but not much is spoken about how and when to wean your baby from his or her beloved bottle.
We like to believe that this will happen spontaneously and that your child will suddenly tell you - "Ready Mom, no more bottle!”- and that this same thing happens when it’s time to stop using a pacifier.
No more bottle, formula, pacifiers… everything magically stops. Right?
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Your child can’t wean him or herself from a bottle alone. Sadly, I have had isolated cases of children as old as 8 that STILL take a bottle to get to sleep. So I cannot express how important it is for parents to have a plan in place to wean their babies off their bottles.
Children are commonly weaned off their bottles between 2 - 4 years old. The biggest problem for parents is that bottles are used to facilitate a nap, or when their children are going to bed at night.
I'm not saying this to make you feel guilty, but you must be aware that continuing to employ these habits may bring on some serious problems for your children:
- Drinking more sugar-filled milk or liquids than they actually need.
- Tooth damage.
- Ear, nose, and throat infections are rife with bottle-feeding before sleeping. Just ask an ENT.
- This habit teaches an inappropriate behavior of safety, comfort, and relaxation associated with food in order to be able to sleep.
It is true that infants use suction to feel safe, relaxed, and even feel pleasure. In reality, babies don’t want the milk, he or she just wants to suck, but if it is accompanied by a few ounces of milk, then obviously they will swallow the milk whilst sucking.
There’s a high price to pay for encouraging bottle-feeding, and I'm not talking about what you spend in formula. In addition to the unnecessary consumption of extra (unneeded) calories, babies are left with traces of milk in their mouth and teeth. And in time, this will result in dental problems, along with some of the issues previously mentioned.
So When Is the Best Time To Wean A Baby Off A Bottle?
The best time to stop bottle-feeding is just after your baby's first birthday.
Because by then:
- Your child should already be eating quite well and have a varied diet.
- Baby doesn't need as much milk; just a little and not on a daily basis.
- Problems associated with bottle use/abuse typically always show up around this age.
But how you do wean a baby from a bottle? That’s the question I get from many Moms who have tried multiple times, resulting in endless days of crying.
The Foolproof Plan
Here is my plan. It’s not the only plan out there, but for many of my patients, it has worked very well. All of my patients who have tried this method have been successful.
Step One: All caregivers of your baby need to be on board with the plan, and everyone needs to be in agreement with your approach. And everyone needs to understand:
- That is not going to do any damage
- Baby will not be lacking food, iron, or calcium and you are not going to malnourish your baby.
The secret trick to this plan is this: if your baby gets so much as a sniff of insecurity from either parent or another caregiver about the bottle-weaning plan, I assure you that you are going to fail before you have even begun.
So don't try it if you are not 100% confident that this plan will succeed.
Step Two: We're going to use your baby's goodwill to succeed in our plan.
All kids like to give and receive gifts. So prepare a box that fits all their bottles (each and every one of them), as if you were going to make a gift.
Ideally, find one that you can wrap and add a big colorful gift ribbon around!
With your help, invite your child to help in a special "ceremony" of preparing a gift, and put each empty bottle (one by one) into the empty box. Explain briefly (without preaching) that we are going to give the bottles to another child who really needs them.
Step Three: And now it's the big day - We go together with our child and their gift to the home, business or office of our partner, friend, family member, or even a pediatrician, who receives it and is grateful to receive the "gift" for another baby and we tell baby that it is a very good and noble gesture.
I encourage you to do one more little thing. Now is the time to introduce a super-hero or a Disney Princess glass to your baby. Present your little one with a beautiful new drinking device and congratulate them once again for being so brave and caring.
And that's it.
Bottle feeding is over.
No more bottles at home.
Even though your child already knows, reassure them that their transition away from bottles was a good thing. Take out the new drinking glass again and remind your child that this will be their new way of drinking.
Of course, you have to be prepared for some crying and despair - that’s normal. But you will be surprised how soon it is before your baby no longer asks for a bottle of milk. That old habit will now be replaced with reading time and extra cuddles.
Developmentally speaking, this is the ideal time and plan to wean your baby off his or her bottle.
So give it a try. You have nothing to lose. I promise, seeing your baby grow, eat, and develop normally is worth the effort, and that is truly the best reward!
(I’m always delighted to receive these gift boxes full of bottles in my office - I have many children who give them away!)
Dr. Ramon Barragan is a Pediatric Specialist and Critical Medical Pediatrician from Mexico. Dr. Barragan lives in San Jose del Cabo with his beautiful wife and daughter, while growing a thriving pediatric practice for the past 20 years. To read more about, or connect with Dr. Barragan please visit his website Papas de Primeros.
Dr. Ramon Barragan is our resident pediatrician at Baja Baby. If you would like to try our EWG VERIFIED™ products, please check out our lavender travel kit. It's the perfect way to sample a few of our natural, safe skincare for children.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease. All material provided on this Baja Baby Shop is provided for information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your own pediatrician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition.